The Castlevania titles have seen releases on a variety of game consoles over the years, but it's this PC Engine release that's garnered a lot of attention and focus among diehard game fans and collectors over the years. Since the game was only released in Japan, gamers who wanted to play the game have long been forced to pay the lofty price tag to import the game, at least until now. With the release of Castlevania: Rondo of Blood on the Virtual Console service, gamers can finally enjoy the game without having to pay the exorbitant price tag associated without the original PC Engine CD release.
Fans of the earlier Castlevania releases should feel right at home with Rondo of Blood as it doesn't stray too far from the traditional gameplay elements found in the 8 and 16-bit releases. The majority of your tasks will be platforming your way through the game's many levels and using your whip to take down the many enemies that come your way. Speciality items also make a return in the game and are once again controlled by pressing Up on the D-Pad. Konami obviously felt the standard control scheme worked quite well in the previous releases so why mess with a good thing?
One interesting feature of Rondo of Blood is the hidden and branching pathways through the game's various levels. There's no one way to travel through the game and many alternate pathways feature new and sometimes more challenging bosses to take on. Some will prove to be shortcuts, whereas others can end up being the long way around, not to mention quite a bit more difficult. It's up to you to figure out which is which throughout the course of the game.
Rondo of Blood features the same smooth and responsive controls fans of the earlier efforts have come to expect from the games, although this might turn off more recent fans who've come to expect the more in-depth character controls in many of the later Castlevania releases. The levels themselves are very well designed and offer plenty of challenges on your way to one of the game's many engaging boss fights. Combine the alternate pathways with some of the most playable boss fights in the series and you have a game that will keep you coming back for more time and time again.
The PC Engine's large colour palette offered up a great way to get more detail out of the visuals than most other systems of the era without having to make use of added processing power, meaning Rondo of Blood is certainly no slouch in the graphics department. The fact that the game was housed on a CD-Rom instead of a HuCard pretty much allowed the developers to run rampant and include all of the musical and graphical extras they wanted to, something that also adds to the visual splash of the game. The end result is one of the most visually impressive Castlevania releases of the era and a testament to what could be done with the CD-Rom medium, even as new as it was for game consoles and their developers at the time.
As solid as other areas of the game are, nothing can touch the majesty of Rondo of Blood's CD-quality musical score. While you could argue that some of the more modern Castlevania releases have exceeded the quality of this 16-bit original, it's impossible to ignore how impressive this soundtrack was for its time period. There's not a bad track in the entire game, and even some of the more familiar tunes, like the all-time classic "Vampire Killer", have never sounded better than they do in this release. Toss in some interesting german voiced dialog to kick off the game and you have what is hands down one of the most impressive audio experiences to come out of the 16-bit era and still one of the best video game soundtracks ever crafted.
Rondo of Blood hasn't acquired the reputation of being one of the finest Castlevania games in existence over the years for nothing. Not only does it feature some absolutely fantastic level design, many with multiple pathways, but the PC Engine CD-quality soundtrack is among the best music the series has ever offered. Couple all of this with the same high level of challenge fans of the series have come to expect over the years and you have a Castlevania experience that should please even the most finicky fans of the series. And if by some chance you've yet to experience this amazing platformer, this Virtual Console release is the perfect opportunity to find out what all the fuss is about.